Maori King lands in strife over sacking

By Yvonne Tahana

The Maori King Tuheitia Paki and his wife Te Atawhai. Photo / Greg Bowker
The Maori King Tuheitia Paki and his wife Te Atawhai. Photo / Greg Bowker

Waikato-Tainui could be headed for the courts after a woman King Tuheitia fired claimed the move was unconstitutional.

But she could also find herself in the strange position of going through mediation for a job the King says she has no right to.

On Monday Tania Martin was fired as chairwoman of Te Kauhanganui, the tribe's parliament representing 66 marae.

King Tuheitia first approached Hiiona Marae, which Ms Martin represents, to dismiss her. Marae leaders declined, preferring the parliament's disputes process to kick in, however the King issued a statement saying as paramount chief he was removing her.

Ms Martin told Native Affairs she was shocked and would be considering her options over the next few days.

"The development does present a constitutional dilemma and I think what's important is just to remain calm. I'll be looking at the legal implications."

Last night, tribal leader of Te Arataura (the parliament's executive board) Tuku Morgan said he had triggered the parliament's disputes process more than a week ago, with mediation to occur no later than December 17.

Ms Martin had not responded to his letter outlining the process but it would still have to play out, he said. "Te Arataura is a creature of legislation and we're going to follow the process."

Asked if it was ridiculous for Ms Martin to find herself fired but still going through mediation, Mr Morgan said: "No, not at all because as the King has said, we're an iwi before we were an incorporated society."

The mediation would focus on constitutional processes and a report Ms Martin wrote questioning tribal spending, which has been criticised by the King for inaccuracies and other matters.

Former Te Kauhanganui chairman Tom Roa said the situation was messy.

"There is no provision in the rules for this to happen. To me it's extremely sad and I think the King has been really poorly advised. It seems to me the responsibility has been overstepped and the King has taken an action which is unconstitutional."

Te Kauhanganui was a "creature of rules" which at its heart was about protecting the King and movement.

Other Kingitanga supporters told the Herald that regardless of the rules many tribal representatives would back the King's decision if it came under further fire.

Waikato-Tainui critic Mamae Takerei said some felt the King had made himself "common" by entangling himself in politics.

"Our people are still captured by the [belief] that you can't question the King. Well, who made him King?"

- NZ Herald

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